What is vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a condition of the skin in which areas of it lose their color. The total area of skin that can be affected by vitiligo varies between individuals. It can also affect the eyes, the inside of the mouth and the hair. In most cases, the affected areas remain discolored for the rest of a person's life. 1
The condition is photosensitive, which means that the affected areas will be more sensitive to sunlight than those that are not.
Vitiligo is caused by a lack of a pigment called melanin in the skin. Melanin is produced by skin cells called melanocytes and gives your skin its color. With vitiligo, there are not enough working melanocytes to produce enough melanin in the skin.
Symptoms and causes of the development of vitiligo
The only symptom of vitiligo is the appearance of flat lighter spots or prominent areas on the skin. The first white spot that becomes noticeable is often an area exposed to the sun. It starts as an ordinary spot, slightly paler than the rest of the skin, but over time this spot becomes paler until it becomes completely white.
These spots are usually irregularly shaped. The edges can sometimes be inflamed with a red tint, visible on all skin tones, leading to itching. Usually, the appearance of these spots does not cause discomfort, irritation, soreness or dryness of the skin.
Research suggests that vitiligo may be the result of the following factors:
- Autoimmune state: Your immune system counts healthy cells (melanocytes) as foreign invaders that can cause harm to the body. This causes the immune system to react too strongly and develop antibodies to destroy melanocytes.
- Genetic changes: A genetic mutation or change in the body's DNA can affect the functioning of melanocytes. There are over 30 genes that can increase the risk of developing vitiligo. [ref. 1]
- Stress: The amount of pigment that melanocyte cells produce can change if you experience frequent emotional or physical stress, especially after an injury.
- Environmental factors: Factors such as ultraviolet radiation and exposure to toxic chemicals can affect the functioning of melanocyte cells.
How is vitiligo treated?
Treatment of vitiligo is not necessary, since the condition is not harmful to the body and is limited to the cosmetic aspect. If you have widespread vitiligo or your physical symptoms affect your emotional state, it may take to restore color (repigmentation) or eliminate the remaining color (depigmentation) of the skin, as well as some other measures. Most often in vitiligo are applied:
- Light therapy.
- Therapy for depigmentation and others.
Nature has provided us with everything we need to be healthier and fight most diseases. In the case of vitiligo, we do not have a remedy for it, but there are some natural remedies that can support the general condition of the body and its defenses.
Ginkgo biloba is a plant that is often prescribed for vitiligo. Ginkgo has a strong antioxidant effect and helps improve the health and function of your immune system. However, ginkgo should not be taken if you have a bleeding disorder or are about to undergo surgery. A ginkgo dose of 40 mg, three times a day, is recommended to help treat conditions such as vitiligo.
Suspected relationship with thyroid
It is believed that one of the causes of vitiligo is the development of an autoimmune disease. It is often associated with other diseases that have an autoimmune origin, such as autoimmune thyroiditis and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (type 1 diabetes).
In one study, vitiligo was associated with decreased thyroid function in 16% of the children studied. Thyroid autoantibodies were found to be positive in 11.3% of them. Although this is a relatively small study, the previously reported prevalence of thyroid disease in children with vitiligo ranged from 10.7 to 24.1%, and the prevalence from 25.3% determined in this study is consistent with other literature. However, thyroid underactivity has not been measured in the general local population that has not had vitiligo, and it is well known that there is a common problem with iodine levels in many people. 4
An algal supplement would be advisable to ensure sufficient iodine intake to maintain the thyroid gland. If there is already autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto's disease), this should be discussed with a doctor, as some patients may become extremely sensitive to iodine, but many are not affected because the bioavailability of seaweed and the absorption of the seaweed matrix is different from potassium iodide.
Increasing the consumption of foods high in zinc in vitiligo is also a good step. A 2009 study in the Indian Journal of Dermatology suggested that zinc supplements may help improve this condition. Oysters are an excellent source of zinc, although you can also get zinc from beef, crab, pork, lobster and chicken. Other sources are beans, nuts and dairy foods.
Eating foods high in vitamin B12 can help stop vitiligo. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Laboratory Analysis in 2011 showed that vitamin B12 deficiency leads to an increase in homocysteine, a compound that may play a role in destroying pigmentation in certain areas of the body. 5
Therefore, eat more foods such as liver, mussels, trout, salmon, haddock and yogurt as sources of vitamin B12.
The same study that correlated vitamin B12 deficiency with the incidence of vitiligo looked at low folate levels in this condition. While evidence in the April 2010 edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that some forms of light therapy can manipulate folic acid levels in people with vitiligo, increasing intake through diet is a better solution. Some sources of folic acid are peas, spinach, asparagus and broccoli.
More foods containing vitamin C may be good for people with vitiligo. Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are excellent sources of this vitamin, but other fruits high in vitamin C include kiwi, strawberries, and melon. You can also get vitamin C from vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, and red and green peppers.
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the form of vitamin D that our bodies produce naturally, after biotransformation of cholesterol, after exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Several studies have found a low level of vitamin D in blood serum in patients with vitiligo. More research is needed to prove a causal link. Either way, the solar vitamin is extremely important for hormonal balance, brain and other things, so it's important to get it daily.
One study looking at the action of piperine, a substance found in black pepper, has found that it stimulates the growth of melanocytes (skin cells) responsible for skin repigmentation in vitiligo. This is a very interesting sphere of usefulness of the favorite spice, but established in mice. 6